Fix the Game, Not the Dame: Restoring Equity in Leadership Evaluations
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Female leaders continue to face bias in the workplace compared to male leaders. When employees are evaluated differently because of who they are rather than how they perform, an ethical dilemma arises for leaders and organizations. Thus, bridging role congruity and social identity leadership theories, we propose that gender biases in leadership evaluations can be overcome by manipulating diversity at the team level. Across two multiple-source, multiple-wave, and randomized field experiments, we test whether team gender composition restores gender equity in leadership evaluations. In Study 1, we find that male leaders are rated as more prototypical in male-dominated groups, an advantage that is eliminated in gender-balanced groups. In Study 2, we replicate and extend this finding by showing that leader gender and team gender composition interact to predict trust in the leader via perceptions of leader prototypicality. The results show causal support for the social identity model of organizational leadership and a boundary condition of role congruity theory. Beyond moral arguments of fairness, our findings also show how, in the case of gender, team diversity can create a more level playing field for leaders. Finally, we outline the implications of our results for leaders, organizations, business ethics, and society.
KeywordsGender Prototypicality Trust
We thank Steffen Giessner, Levke Henningsen, Alina Hernandez Bark, Steve Karau, Lucas Monzani, Christian Troester, Daan van Knippenberg, and Christian Voegtlin for their comments on previous versions of this manuscript, as well as our editor and three anonymous reviewers. This research was completed as part of the first author’s dissertation, which was conducted at the chair of Professor Bruno Staffelbach. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies.
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